I Can’t Do This!

My daughter brought home a doll that would be her “daughter” for the next three nights and two days. Her name was August. Things didn’t go well for either Maggie or August. Or for Maggie’s cat, Mickey. The poor guy was beside himself with worry whenever baby August cried, which was often enough.

Around two hours into her Child Development assignment, Maggie had lost some of the tenacity that makes her so amazing. She didn’t know what to do with the crying doll. She couldn’t figure it out and she couldn’t fix it. (To her credit, I should disclose right now that the baby hadn’t been programmed correctly.)

“I can’t do this!” she cried.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried those same words or something that sounds like them. I’m a grown woman who’s gone through a whole lot more than three hours of intermittent crying from a baby. I don’t say that to minimize Maggie’s anxiety but to say that – like most of us – I can completely empathize with her.

I remembered the fearless little toddler who had once wobbled and fallen her way to successful walking. This was the same girl who tested a single stair step one day and conquered the other 12 within two days like a boss. My heart broke for her, and I was a bit surprised. This girl is pretty fierce, yet she was buckling under the pressure to “fix” her baby.

My first instinct was to take the baby from her to make it better. That’s what a parent does, right?

ce0b26eb3b3971ff9ee63aa296fc3780Our Heavenly Father feels the same way towards His children as we feel toward our children. He wants so badly for us to let Him make things better for ourselves.

That’s why He invites us to cast all our cares on Him.

That’s why He sent His one and only Son to pay for our sins and secure a permanent home with Him.

That’s why there are so many verses in the Bible telling us to not be afraid.

That’s why He reminds us again and again that He will go before us to make a way where there seems to be no way. He knows the number of hairs on our head and every desire of our heart.

That’s why he keeps pouring out grace and forgiveness every single time we need it.

God doesn’t expect us to handle everything alone. Max Lucado illustrated puts it this way:

“When a father leads his four-year-old son down a crowded street, he takes him by the hand and says, ‘Hold on to me.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Memorize the map’ or ‘Take your chances dodging the traffic’ or ‘Let’s see if you can find your way home.’ The good father gives the child one responsibility: ‘Hold on to my hand.’God does the same with us.”

I3ec4b43543db428aef9763cbff0c0ecbn fact our weakness serves at least three valuable purposes:

God is a loving father, but we must recognize that the gospel is about His kingdom, His plans, His glory. God holds our hand and doesn’t abandon us; but He does so because He has a divine and perfect plan that has already been spoken into existence. It can not and will not fail – even if we might.

Does that mean that we’re merely simple-minded sheep? No. We’re valuable, beloved sheep. We’re the kind of sheep who are cared for, searched for, comforted and guided by the most loving Shepherd we could ever hope for. He knows each and every one of our needs and is never surprised by circumstances. But if we managed everything ourselves, having no need of Him, the glory would be ours, gained through our own strength and wisdom.

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom drew this powerful portrait of a caring father:

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie.”

So the next time you find yourself crying, “I can’t do this!” remember that you are not alone. Our Father already has the map and the ticket for our journey! Just trust Him to get you there safely. And try to relax and enjoy the trip!

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YOU ARE….

I’ve seen this before and it showed up in my Facebook news-feed again today. It was worth a second watch!

And men, this isn’t just for the women. The season is upon us to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the liberation from sin His death guaranteed and the reconciliation with our Father that He has always wanted.

And yet, this very season has the potential to wear us down. The demands on our time, money and energy can make us forget all about peace on Earth and goodwill to man. You may catch yourself whispering, “I can’t do it all.” You don’t have to. You are enough. What you do will be good enough.

Above all, remember who and Whose you are. You are loved!

“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:8)

LET IT GO!

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Of all the four seasons, I enjoy Autumn most of all because it’s the season that welcomes everyone back into their home to spend longer evenings with family, friends or a good book.

Hal Borland was an American author, journalist and naturalist. (No, he’s is not the brother of Al Borland from “Tool Time.”) I like to think of him as a “season specialist.” He found a way of finding wonder and wisdom in the different seasons and the constant transformation of nature.

Now that we’re officially in Autumn, trees have been in a glorious survival mode for a few weeks already. But what a amazing show before Autumn is done!

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Did you know that leaves don’t just fall off? Growing up, I assumed they did – I mean, it is FALL after all. Leaves, in fact, are actually pushed off by the tree. It’s the only way the tree will survive the winter. We could learn a lot from trees.

Right now, trees are letting go of anything that would make survival during winter harder. If they were to keep their leaves, the added weight of the snow would break their branches.

We don’t know what Winter will be like here in Minnesota this year – when it will start to snow, how much it will snow, how much snow will melt in between snowfalls, or when it will stop snowing for the season. That’s how seasons often are – we have some idea of what to expect, but we can never be certain, can we? The only two things we can be certain of is that Winter will begin and Winter will end. Although that sounds simplistic to the point of being condescending, we often seem surprised by its arrival and disappointed that it’s not over soon enough.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

8f0ca2121e047e9f93401eea082fd846We each have seasons in our lives, as well – some easy, some challenging; some pleasant, some painful. I believe there are a few truths of seasons, whether in nature or in our personal lives.

They’re inevitable.

They’re temporary.

They’re transformational.

But most of all, they’re transitional. Just as Autumn is sandwiched in between Summer and Winter, the season you’re going through will pass in time. (True, it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass!)

The key to surviving your particular season is to let go of anything that doesn’t help you through it. What are you holding onto that you need to let go of in order to survive the challenging season ahead – a season of financial change, a season of poor health, a season of grief, a season of busyness, a season of disappointment?

Let go of habits that are robbing you of your time and energy. Release people from your unforgiveness. Delegate responsibility. Ask for help. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations. Use paper plates! (Not all changes need to be grand and philosophical, you know.)

Take time to find beauty in your season. It’s there somewhere! Even in the midst of death in Autumn, trees look like blazing flames atop a match, the leaves change color and fall to carpet the Earth in gold, red and orange.

Autumn also provides a new view. Hal Borland recognized that “October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.” The season in which everything seems to die also allows us to see everything that was obscured by foliage during the summer!

So while seasons are an inevitable part of nature and our lives, they can be survived. Beauty can be found in those changes. And, ultimately, what lies dormant will bring forth life in its time. All we need to do is prepare for it, be patient as we move through it and trust that this season may just be what we need to see God’s faithfulness in the next season.

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“One day you will look back on this season and know that you are truly blessed, and not because things were perfect but because you found perfect grace in the worst of it.”

~Morgan Harper Nichols

 

 

 

Abba, Father!

I never had a daddy. I had a biological father whom I never met. My mother married my step-father when I was 8 years old, but he ended up being – for lack of a more definitive word – inconsequential. He wasn’t a bad man; he just simply lived in our house. He took up space. I’ve often explained that there was the chair, the couch, Frank and the lamp; we fed Frank and dusted the rest. In short, he was definitely not a daddy.

I’m 53 years old, and I could really use a daddy right now. Someone who could hold me, comfort me, reassure me that things would be fine – that he would do what he could to make sure things would be fine.

3226dd5cc757d77c500e184fc574f42eI’ve just read Jennifer Arimborgo’s blog post How to Avoid Wormy Manna” in which she explores God’s daily provision for the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness after being delivered from slavery. In spite of the many miracles they’d seen, they would keep leftovers of manna against God’s instruction. God promised to provide their daily bread, but their doubt drove them to reserve a bit – just in case.

Just in case of what? In case, God forgot about them? In case God ran out of manna? In case God changed his mind about providing for them? In case God got mad and decided to punish them by withdrawing his provision? In case God was a liar?

God was their Abba father, their Jehovah Jireh – our Provider – and His Word is full of scripture that tells us none of these possibilities are realistic concerns.

According to Calling God “Abba, Father” Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling:

“Because we have been adopted into God’s family, we are privileged to call him “Abba, Father.” The word abba is an Aramaic word, one that was used by Jesus himself and echoed in the earliest Christian community, which spoke Aramaic (a language close to Hebrew). Abba was a word used by children for their father, something like “daddy” or “papa” today. But it was also a term of respect used by adult children for their fathers. Thus the word abba richly expresses our relationship with God. We are dependent upon him like little children. We are free to run to him as children run to their daddies. Yet we also offer God the highest respect and adult love.”

Because God is unchanging, we can rest in the security that He is still Abba, Father, Jehovah Jireh to his children. And because I am one of His children, I can lay claim to the promises of my heavenly “daddy.” (If you haven’t read Jennifer Arimborgo’s blog, I really encourage you to check her out at Feeding on Jesus. She has such a delightful, open-armed way of exploring the intimacy our heavenly triune wants to relate to us!)

We can easily criticize the Israelites for hording manna in spite of God’s promises, but only because we have the benefit of having the rest of the story available to us. These Israelites had been born into a world in which they hadn’t been lovingly cared for. They were expendable labor with no intimate care from the Egyptians to whom they were enslaved and on whom they were dependent. Who could blame them for doubting that their next meal was guaranteed? Except God, who else in their lives had loved them enough to truly care about their needs? Who else had cared enough about them to pursue a nurturing relationship?

How many of us who genuinely believe we are children of God, adopted into His family through our belief in the sacrificial death of his Son for the sake of our sins, have not experienced the intimacy of a truly loving daddy like our Abba, Father? Is it not just as challenging for us to trust Jehovah Jireh when He promises that He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 ESV when so many of us struggle with the memory of an Earthly father who had limitations to what he could provide. Or worse, lied about, forgot about, or withdrew provision for the sake of punishment?

04b49e49818b8c804f3f9426d2f641a3What I need right now is something I’m not sure I know how to look for. God has unlimited resources. He can do more than I could possibly imagine to secure my future needs and has promised to do so. And yet, I’m anxious that He won’t. Heck, I hate to admit that there’s even a part of me that wonders if He can even if He wanted to. What kind of faith is that? What kind of faith do I have if I believe I need a contingency plan in case God fails me? Is the smallest offering of faith enough for God to honor as Jesus honored Peter’s very short-lived confidence to step out of the boat onto the sea’s roaring waves?

I’m praying that it is.

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DO I DOUBT GOD?

This morning I spoke to a woman who has a teenaged boy with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. I told her I’d pray for her family. For the son’s health, for wisdom and compassion for all who care for him. For peace for the family. And I am trusting God to do this.

I’m trusting the same God who I felt – in the deepest part of my spirit – had failed me last week.

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So what kind of God do I trust in? The kind who will love me less than He loves someone else? Do I trust in a changeable God, a stingy God, a God without compassion? Do I trust in a God who is interested in my wellbeing only when it suits him? Do I trust in a God who denies me because He is frustrated with me?

His word says He is none of these things.

Is God changeable? No. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken and will not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19) He cannot change.

So is God unloving and insensitive to my needs? No. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

Then did I not have enough faith in God? No. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) He will never leave me nor forsake me, in spite of my failings.

Do I believe in a God who is clueless about what I need? No. “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.'” God is in my past, my present and my future now. He knows what I need.

So did God just choose to deny me what I prayed for out of spite? No. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) God gives his children good things, and I am a child of God.

So I must believe that the same God to whom I am praying for this woman and her family is the same God in whom I put my trust last week and in whom I will continue to trust. It is in this that I choose to trust: “So that by two unchangeable things, in which it impossible for God to lie, we who have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18)

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WHEN YOU QUESTION YOUR PARTNER

Remember when you were in school and you had to partner with someone to complete a project, and your partner failed you? Not only did you do most of the research, but you got a bad grade besides because of their lack of participation.

Or as an adult, you were on a workplace committee to work on a project. Most of the members did a fair job of contributing; but there was that one person who not only didn’t do her part, but actually made the outcome of the project worse than if she’d done nothing at all. In the end, your boss didn’t care about how each member performed individually; they only wanted results, and the results were dismal.

Sometimes, you think, it would have been easier to have done it all yourself. You know what they say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That would be the easiest way to handle things, wouldn’t it? But that’s the world’s answer to everything. The world will tell you to “look out for yourself because no one’s going to help you, baby. You’re in this alone.”

Some Christians would go so far as to say the temptation to not rely on anyone else is from Satan because division has always been his goal. And there’s truth in that, too. Satan will wait until you’re weak to suggest that no one – not even God – will be there to help you.

But what if it’s not a school partner or a coworker who isn’t pulling their weight, but your spouse – the one you believe God set aside just for you? Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

For some, this isn’t a theological contemplation for meditation; this is a question they need an answer to because they feel very alone right now. And quite scared.

That’s the root of it all right there, isn’t it? Fear. God’s Word reminds us again and again to not fear, do not be afraid or dismayed. As a child of God, our heavenly Father promises that he hears our cries and knows our hearts. He is our Abba Father, our provider. Will he come through when no one else does? Will he show up when the one he chose as your partner fails you and leaves you afraid that he or she won’t do their part to provide for the family?

Satan whispers, “See? I told you you were alone.” He is constantly on the move to see what he can destroy, and if your relationship looks wounded and helpless, you can be certain he’ll attack it. All he needs is an opening, one small opportunity. He only needs us to be weak. Weakened by fear, disillusionment, anxiety, unfulfilled promises, unspoken assurances.

I believe there are warriors out there who are battle-weary and need encouragement. I don’t feel it’s enough to simply say, “God says that you shouldn’t be afraid.” He has said that, several times in fact; but I think it’s naïve to think those who need an encouraging word right now will find it encouraging enough. For some, it would be like slapping a smiley face sticker on your problem and calling it first aid. Some of God’s children have a history of disappointments that have left them feeling hopeless and helpless when things get scary. They expect nothing more more than self-preservation to be their security.

God gave you emotions, and fear was one of them. But it’s not his plan for you to live defeated when you have been designed for battle. And if the best way for Satan to gain a foothold in your life – in your marriage – is for you to be weak, then you need to be strong. Tou can be afraid if you choose, but do it afraid!

God knows you can’t do it alone. He never intended for you to fight in your own power and has made it clear that apart from him, we can do nothing. So pray for the peace, confidence, discernment and courage you need. Then put on the Armor of God and prepare for battle, knowing this:

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“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10 – 17). Then stand firm.

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He is God. He will not fail you!

FREAK OR FIGHT?

Yesterday was rough. It was one of those days when you begin to feel hopeless; nothing is ever going to be fine, much less good, again. And, as usual, it comes down to our finances. I feel horrible admitting that my faith in God is measured by my checking balance, but that’s the truth of it.

See, when my account balance gets lower, my fear and anxiety increase. When my anxiety and fear increase, my faith in God decreases. And I know that’s when my faith in God needs to increase. I know the verses about fearing not and casting all my cares on Him. But I’m still scared.

This is the crack in my spiritual armour that I mentioned a few posts ago. This is the moment of truth. What will I do? The way I see it, I have two options: Freak or Fight.

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I’ve already freaked. I cried, worried, and what-if’d my way down a few rabbit holes. I’m still broke. And I’m still anxious. This is what I’m comfortable with. I think I probably come from a long line of freakers. My mom certainly was one.

OK, time for a quick side story! When I was about 23, I made the horribly desperate (the decision was both horrible and desperate) decision to move back home. It was a bad neighborhood, and within two days of living there, someone set my car on fire when trying to steal the radio – which was sad because it was the only part of the car that still worked well. At 2:00 am, my step-father, Frank, woke me up to let me know my car was on fire. When I asked him if he’d called the fire department, he answered, “I thought you’d want to do that.” (Now you know Frank.) The car was consumed by flames by the time the fire department got there, and my mom was screaming, “What are we going to do?! What are we going to do?!” (And now you know Mom – the Freaker.) Since the only pressing business for the morning was getting me to class, and since we had a city bus system, I decided I’d get up in time to take the bus and went back to bed. That’s what I was going to do.

So back to the question of whether I should freak or fight over our finances today. Freaking out is sort of satisfying and gives me something to do, I suppose; but it doesn’t really help, does it? And I know that every minute I take my sight off God, it pleases Satan immensely. Satan loves nothing more than to see me be anxious and fearful because that means my trust is not in my heavenly Father. I guess that means that I may as well put on the Armour of God, starting with the shield of peace.

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I know my heavenly Father is loving and gracious and good. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. His burden is light. He has unlimited resources that we can’t even fathom. Our financial situation is no surprise to him. He already has a plan for me and my family because he’s already gone ahead of us and made a way. I have no idea how things will turn out, but I don’t suppose I need to know because I know the One who is making the arrangements for things to turn out well. (I just hope his plans for us don’t require us being penniless up to that moment when he “suddenly” performs a miracle to demonstrate his glory, ya know?)

So, today I take a stand that I will fight and not freak. I will remember Matthew 6:31-34:

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Today I will cast my cares on God. I will put my concerns in his hands. And I will hope I will be smart enough to leave them there! After all, He knows me, He sees me, and He loves me. And he’s a God of  ‘suddenly’ and of Red Sea miracles.

PUT YOUR FEET UP AND REST FOR AWHILE

Self-care might sound like a new idea today. There’s so much demand on our time and energy as we try to multi-task (which really isn’t as efficient as it appears, after all!). It used to be that we had more time than money. Now, we don’t seem to have much of either. And as adults are caught in the middle of taking care of ageing parents and their own children at the same time, self-care is becoming more and more important.

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But the idea of self-care is anything but new, and I was surprised to consider that it was God himself who first demonstrated this. On the final day of his creation, he rested. I can’t imagine that the Creator expended enough energy to exhaust himself. After all, all he had to do was speak and things came into existence. Yet on the last day, he declared all that he had created to be good and rested.

I think a case could be made that he rested because, after all, he was done; there was no more to do but to enjoy his work. But I think it’s important that we not underestimate his example. When it’s time to work, we work. But we also need to recognize that when the work is done, it’s time to rest.

The 23rd Psalm reminds us that “the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” I found it fascinating to discover that sheep don’t just get tired and rest on their own. It’s the shepherd who makes sure that the environment is safe and the sheep are free from fear, pests, and danger so the sheep can rest. Unless the shepherd does his job, the sheep cannot rest.

Jesus continued to show the importance of rest throughout his ministry. After hours of teaching and ministering to the need of others, he would go off on his own to rest and pray. And isn’t that the best combination? Rest and prayer! Both provide us with the resources we need to move forward.

In Matthew 8:24, we find that not even a great storm could keep Jesus from a good sleep: “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.”

Our Lord extends the same invitation for rest to us today in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Why would rest be so important to Christians? I believe it’s because a tired spirit is a weak spirit. And a weak spirit is vulnerable to Satan’s temptations. What poor decisions have you made when you’ve been tired? I know that when I have failed to plan and am tired, I don’t eat right. If I come home tired enough, you can bet we’ll have fast food for dinner – not the best choice financially or nutritionally.

I’ve found that rest is incredibly important and is most powerful when I combine it with prayer.

How do you rest? Share your ideas!